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Don't Be Evil — Hire It Done 332

Posted by kdawson
from the dirty-tricks-and-astroturf dept.
MarkusQ writes, "The NY Times among others is reporting that Google is ramping up its lobbying clout (registration or bugmenot required). The 'Don't be evil' search engine company has hired the infamous astroturfing and dirty tricks firm Direct Connect, Inc. You may remember DCI from their recent attempts to pass off their 'Penguin Army' video as a product of some lone wit, unconnected with their client, Exxon. Or their involvement in Microsoft's 'even dead voters love Microsoft' campaign. With a staff of veterans in the biz (such as Chris 'Swiftboat' LaCivita and Jim 'Electioneering' Tobin), led by Tom 'Big Tobacco on the Dole' Synhorst, I'm sure DCI will be able to give Google whatever they're paying them for. The question is, what are they paying them for? And does 'Don't be evil' imply 'Don't pay professionals to be evil for you?' Or could there possibly be a non-evil reason to hire these clowns?"
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Don't Be Evil — Hire It Done

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  • sorry (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:05AM (#16105292)
    No can do...
  • Not what you think (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:06AM (#16105300) Journal
    Perhaps Google is just trying to balance out their lobbying efforts?

    When you start handing out money to both sides of the aisle, you can get better results.

    IIRC, Google was mostly throwing money at Democratic party people.

    P.S. here's the No-Reg Required RSS Link [nytimes.com]
    • Interesting spin (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MarkusQ (450076) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:28AM (#16105545) Journal

      Perhaps Google is just trying to balance out their lobbying efforts?
      When you start handing out money to both sides of the aisle, you can get better results.
      IIRC, Google was mostly throwing money at Democratic party people.

      This is an interesting take on the issue. In submitting the story, I intentionally focused on the part I object to (DCI's long history of unethical conduct) and did not mention either party by name. But, as you point out, there seems to be a sad assumption underlying this story (and reflected in many of the news reports about it) -- that the only way to gain influence with the Republicans at present is through corruption.

      Think about it...Google hires a corrupt astroturfing firm, and your immediate response is that they are trying to balance out their lobbying efforts--that the way to balance out giving to Democrats is to give to Slimeballs too. I'm not saying that you originated this take on it; it seems to be pretty much universal.

      --MarkusQ

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by thrillseeker (518224)
        there seems to be a sad assumption underlying this story (and reflected in many of the news reports about it) -- that the only way to gain influence with the Republicans at present is through corruption.

        You certainly did your level best in your "summary" to make it seem so.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by 1stpreacher (848239)
          Not to mention the links were all about the money coming out of or into the Republican party...


          With no bias I might add... ;-)

          • You imply that because the summary only gave evidence of Direct Connect's ties to Republican corrupton...that the author chose to not show evidence of Direct Connect's ties to Democratic corruption.

            So, show me those ties. Show me how Democrats use evil companies like Direct Connect to further their goals.

            Unless, of course, such ties don't exist and you're propping up a strawman...
            • Show me how Democrats use evil companies like Direct Connect to further their goals.

              The Democrats don't outsource that, they do it in-house.

              Why did the Democrat enter the cemetary?
              To thank his voters.

          • by MarkusQ (450076) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:13PM (#16106028) Journal

            Not to mention the links were all about the money coming out of or into the Republican party...
            With no bias I might add... ;-)

            I'll have you know that I spend close to an hour writing the story submission, and pointedly looked for the most non-partisan links I could find. I specifically focused on their corporate activities (with the exception of the Tobin, who I included because of the criminal activity involved).

            For the record, I am a Republican, and have been all my life. But I've been an American for even longer, so don't assume that that means I will blindly ignore this sort of thing either just because "Republicans" are doing it. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter what color jersey you wear if you are acting to subvert our democracy.

            For me, the issue here is simple: these people are good at only one thing, trying to manipulate our elected officials into thinking that they are doing our will when in fact they are not. I assume that their party affiliation is as flexible as their ethics, and don't put any more trust in it than it deserves.

            --MarkusQ

            • You can't possibly be a Republican.

                  The Republican party does not value someone like you. Virtually everytime a Candidate appears to be someone like you, the GOP pushes them to the side and or dumps them entirely from the party. Moral and ethical behavior is not a core value in the leadership of today's Republican Party. You can thank Tom "The Hammer" Delay and many similar 'leaders' in the GOP for that course change.

                 
              • by MarkusQ (450076) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:49PM (#16106526) Journal
                The Republican party does not value someone like you. Virtually everytime a Candidate appears to be someone like you, the GOP pushes them to the side and or dumps them entirely from the party. Moral and ethical behavior is not a core value in the leadership of today's Republican Party. You can thank Tom "The Hammer" Delay and many similar 'leaders' in the GOP for that course change.

                It wasn't always that way. I keep hoping that someday it will change back. Of course, the first step is for those of us who still remember what values look like (not the word "values" printed on a campaign button, but actual values) to become a million little hammers, pushing back on the slime buckets that hijacked our party, making it increasingly uncomfortable for them to stay. There are certainly enough of us, though you wouldn't know it from the antics of our party's leaders and their morally bankrupt cheerleading squads. (Who knows, maybe they'll get sick of us and go join the Green Party [tpmmuckraker.com].)

                --MarkusQ

            • For me, the issue here is simple: these people are good at only one thing, trying to manipulate our elected officials into thinking that they are doing our will when in fact they are not.

              You state in your posting above that there seems to be a sad assumption underlying this story (and reflected in many of the news reports about it) -- that the only way to gain influence with the Republicans at present is through corruption.

              Apparantly you equate the legal practice of lobbying with the illegal one of c
            • by Darby (84953) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @01:36PM (#16107105)
              For the record, I am a Republican, and have been all my life. But I've been an American for even longer, so don't assume that that means I will blindly ignore this sort of thing either just because "Republicans" are doing it. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter what color jersey you wear if you are acting to subvert our democracy.

              If you're still a Republican at this point, then *you* by your support of these scum *are* acting to subvert our Democracy. Unless you're over 40, then given that you've been a Republican "all your life", you have always stood for exactly this sort of subversion of our Democracy.

              Wake up and take some responsibility for your actions.
              All that torture and murder based on lies and fear mongering? That's *your* fault.
              Be a man, step up and have an ounce of personal responsibility.
              Oh right, you're a Republican personal responsibility is like kryptonite to you.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pla (258480)
          You certainly did your level best in your "summary" to make it seem so.

          Could you perhaps quote the part of the summary that mentions any political party directly (not by way of an entirely-relevant project on which DCI has worked)?

          Because, put simply, I don't see anything partisan in the FP.


          And for the record, I call myself neither a Democrat nor a Republican - I consider myself a "moderate anarchist". As all governments exist for the sole purpose of slowly removing "real" freedoms from its citizen
      • ...that the way to balance out giving to Democrats is to give to Slimeballs too.

        You are making an unnecessary distinction. They are all slimeballs - some more agreeable to your own sensibilities than others.

        As for Google - the moment they became a publicly held company, they became pawns to the larger economic struggle to maintain and improve shareholder value. [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by hummdinger02 (997602)
        It is indeed interresting. They are all slimeballs. Both sides raise very similar volumes of cash in vary similar ways. Neither is more or less corrupt than the other. It is always the party in the forefront that takes the heat at any given time. Yet in the shadows of that the other party is making the same deals. If you believe either party has somehow maintained a morale high ground you are being misled.

        It is very sad Google would put money in the banks of these sorts of people. Even if their inten
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Darby (84953)
          It is indeed interresting. They are all slimeballs. Both sides raise very similar volumes of cash in vary similar ways. Neither is more or less corrupt than the other.

          Sorry, but our death and torture schools and camps all over central America, Eastern Europe, and the Arab world prove you to be a liar.
          The K Street project which institutionalized bribery and corruption as the third house of congress prove you to be a liar.

          Yes, theyre all slimeballs but there is no competition whatsoever if for no other reason
    • What do you mean? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:30AM (#16105556) Journal
      This isn't about campaign contributions to parties, this is about hiring a company of professional astroturfers and generally dirty-tricks experts. You know, people who _are_ the evil kind that Google supposedly distanced itself from.

      You can't balance _that_ like that, or not so easily. This isn't D&D. You can't say, basically, "oh, I've done 3 good deeds this month, for 4 'good' alignment points total, so I'm entitled to gut two orphans for 2 'evil' points each." RL doesn't work that way. Al Capone's kitchen soups, very good deeds as they may be, don't simply balance out that he was an evil psychopath the rest of the time.

      But more importantly, Google's motto doesn't work that way. It says "do no evil", _not_ "keep the balance by doing as much evil as good stuff". So exactly how and what are they, in your opinion, balancing there? Surely not their motto and promise.

      I don't care if it's for Google itself or for some political party or whatever. Evil is evil. Evil done to "balance" something else is still evil by any definition. And hiring evil people to do evil for you, is still doing evil.

      We have a long history of laws and precedents, in both criminal and military justice, saying just that: you're personally responsible for the people you paid or commanded. We've had plenty of Mafia Dons trying to claim basically, "see, I never hurt a fly. It was my subordinates that shot people and threw people in lakes with cement shoes. But me? I never personally even slapped anyone." And society eventually decided that, no, it doesn't work your way. If _your_ goons did evil stuff, _you_ are responsible for that.

      Or we had military commanders willing to claim basically, "nah, I never shot a civillian. It was my soldiers that shot and raped civillians. I was just standing there and watching them." And again, society decided that it doesn't work that way. If they're your subordinates, you're responsible for them. It's your duty to stop them if they do something evil.

      So, ok, astroturfing isn't subject to criminal laws or anything, but from a moral standpoint it's the same thing: if Google pays to get action X done, Google is morally responsible for it. You can't claim the moral high ground by just paying others to do your evil stuff.
      • It isn't a matter of bringing balance to the Force, but real life is also not like Star Wars where once you start down the path of evil you can only ever do evil things. Even evil people can do some good now and then. It doesn't necessarily redeem them, but being evil doesn't mean an incapacity for doing good.

        And in all practicality, if you're needing to counter dirty tricks, you need someone who knows them all.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dingDaShan (818817)
      A very wise person said that "even evil people can do good things (though they may not realize it)" History says that DCI was arguably evil in the past, but does not indicate future evilness.
    • What if Google is paying for not-lobbying?

      Let's say you are trying to do good. But everytime you try to do good, some scumsucking lobbyists, who are very good at being scumsucking lobbyists, get in your way. How do you overcome that? Kill them? Can't do that, it's evil.

      But, you could hire them and pay to send them on permanent vacation. Then the next time you try to do good, and Evil tries to hire scumsucking lobbyists, they can't, because they're in Tahiti. On Google-paid permanent vacation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MickDownUnder (627418)
        What a crock....

        Lets try and make black look white to fit our pathetic gullible little universe.

        The whole do no evil thing is a load of horse shit, google is a corporation run by directors who have been selling off [gigaom.com] their stock as fast as they can. This is never a good sign of about the intentions of the directors.

        If Microsoft was doing everything Google has done and is currently doing everyone would be crying out for the US justice department to do something about them. They control the popularit
  • Surprise! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by yourestupidjerks (948216) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:06AM (#16105307)
    Corporations do shitty things to increase their profit margins! Shocking, I know! Come on, do people honestly believe that Google is some sort of sintly organization? Their goal - no, their legal responsibility - is to maximize the profit of their shareholders. Same as any other company. Get over them already.
    • Re:Surprise! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:25AM (#16105518) Homepage Journal
      You're assuming the phrase "maximize profit" implies "any way possible." But that's not the case. They can choose what they consider an ethical route to maximizing profit and still avoid being sued by shareholders. AFAIK no company has ever been sued by shareholders for not lobbying the government.
    • Re:Surprise! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:25AM (#16105519)
      Actually, according to the terms of their incorporation, they promise to uphold certain principles above shareholder value, and they have no legal responsibility to reneg on this promise.
      • Re:Surprise! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:42AM (#16105705)
        Actually, according to the terms of their incorporation, they promise to uphold certain principles above shareholder value, and they have no legal responsibility to reneg on this promise.

        Except, of course, that this a fairy tale. No such "terms" exist which are in any way enforceable. The only laws governing corporations which apply to corporate activities are that which the Federal Securities Commission enforces. In which profits of the shareholders are always to be put before any other "principles".

        Principles can be put in motion in a business but only in the rare cases when the business is privately held, family owned or in some other special way enjoys the complete concensus of its shareholders, which usually implies small organizations.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mfrank (649656)
          Load of crap. The "voting" shares are all held by the three main guys, and documents filed with the SEC make it perfectly clear to any investor doing due diligence that increasing shareholder value is *not* the primary goal. You want to buy a share of Google and sue them for not maximizing shareholder value, you'll be laughed out of court.
      • by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:53AM (#16105818)
        The 'The have to maximize profits' line is because in theory they have to obey the will of their share holders, also known as owners. To do otherwise is a breach of their fuduciary (sp?) responsabilities. It is assumed that the reason for purchasing the stock was for profit, and thus the need to maximize profits. Of course if at the time of the sale of those stocks, the company was being very loud about their 'do no evil' policy, it is reasonable to assume that the share holders (owners of the company) purchased their stock with the express purpose of providing a service to humanity while doing no evil. To go directly against the will of the stock holders is what is cause for lawsuit, not the lack of maximizing profits. In fact there is likely a case to be made that if Google chooses to 'do evil', they have breached their fuduciary reponsibility and thus are liable for 'damages'.

        Of course if we get to the point that the real reason for liability is forgotten and we, through precidence, decide that corporations must make profit at any cost, we will have then set up a situation where by definition, corporations are evil. That would be disasterous for our economy as moral people would only do business with sole proprietorships, and sole proprietorships have far less potential for growth. Not to mention that they also would require the concentration of wealth.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigpat (158134)
      Corporations do shitty things to increase their profit margins! Shocking, I know! Come on, do people honestly believe that Google is some sort of sintly organization? Their goal - no, their legal responsibility - is to maximize the profit of their shareholders. Same as any other company. Get over them already.

      And they can only maximise their profits in unethical ways? That seems not only cynical, but plain wrong. Business is about business relationships, you want to be as trustworthy and consistent as po
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Exactly, thank you for being the one person here perpared to state the blindingly obvious.

      The attitude people on this site have to companies like Google and Apple confuses me deeply.

      If this was a story about Microsoft hiring an organisation known for dirty political lobbying there would already be 500 comments (rightly) slating them for using their power and prividge to try and influence the regulatory process. But if it's Google or Apple..... suddendly all your cynicism goes out of the window to be re

  • Just because.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sugapablo (600023) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:07AM (#16105315) Homepage
    Just because you hire a firm known to have pulled dirty tricks for dirty companies like Exxon and Microsoft doesn't mean that they'll necessarily pull dirty stuff on behalf of all their clients.

    If pulling crap would make their client angry, they won't do it. Not to mention, that irrespective of "dirty tactics" the firm might be simply the best at getting the job done.

    Don't imply that Google is or will be doing anything wrong with this company until some negative action is taken. This company will do what it takes to make their client happy. If "Do No Evil" is what makes Google happy, then they will do their job within the confines of that model.

    Let's just wait and see.
    • by wirq_1047 (795277) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:13AM (#16105394)
      Unfortunately for right or wrong you are judged by the company you keep. It's not always fair but it is a cold hard fact of life.
      • by 1u3hr (530656)
        Unfortunately for right or wrong you are judged by the company you keep

        Exactly. As TFA says, these guys are friends with Karl Rowe et al. They're the kind of people they have to influence, so Google hires people who know them. If Google needed to influence the Dalai Lama, they probably would have chosen a different firm.

      • I can't remember the quote exactly... something to the effect, "The greatest wisdom is required to use injustice justly." from "A Scanner Darkly" (the book not the movie, but the movie was good to)
    • by MarkusQ (450076) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:18AM (#16105445) Journal
      Just because you hire a firm known to have pulled dirty tricks for dirty companies like Exxon and Microsoft doesn't mean that they'll necessarily pull dirty stuff on behalf of all their clients.

      This is a little disingenuous. Direct Connect is an astroturfing company; that's what their people are good at. They make things (like the Microsoft letters, or the Swiftboat ads, etc.) that are specifically designed to look like they are coming "from the people" when they in fact are not. While they have many ways of going about it, it seems to be the only service they provide.

      If someone hires a high-priced specialist, it seems reasonable to assume that they want the specialist's services, doesn't it?

      --MarkusQ

      P.S. For the record, I like Google. A lot. I used it to dig up most the links in the story. But that doesn't mean that I blindly trust them and everyone who works for them, or want to possibly sit quietly by while some quislings pervert them from within. It is much easier to keep a basically honest company honest then to bring one back from the dark side once they've gone over.

      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:36AM (#16105642)
        Direct Connect is an astroturfing company; that's what their people are good at.


        DCI is a full spectrum political consulting, PR, and telemarketing firm; while some of the work it has done certainly has been "astroturfing", a lot of it seems to be routine political consulting and marketing.

        DCI is not an "astroturfing" company, but like most political consulting firms, most of their work doesn't make headlines. Its only when they are caught doing something controversial, like astroturfing, that anyone notices them.

        • by MarkusQ (450076) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:01PM (#16105901) Journal
          DCI is a full spectrum political consulting, PR, and telemarketing firm; while some of the work it has done certainly has been "astroturfing", a lot of it seems to be routine political consulting and marketing.

          They sure are. As they put it themselves "Whatever the issue, whatever the target--elected officials, regulators or public opinion--you need reliable third party allies to advocate your cause. We can help you recruit credible coalition partners and engage them for maximum impact. It's what we do best." The services they provide include:

          • Astroturfing (see links in story)
          • Push-polling [arstechnica.com]
          • Telemarketing (as you mentioned)
          • Grass-tops (their term, not mine, but I can guess)
          • Fake blog and video production (see links in story)
          • Journo-Lobbyists [washingtonmonthly.com]
          • Spamming (see previous links)
          • Junk mail (dead tree spam) (their original line)
          • and employment services [washingtonmonthly.com]

          What they don't seem to do is anything legitimate, or at least non-slimy. Got any examples you'd like to share?

          --MarkusQ

      • They make things (like the Microsoft letters, or the Swiftboat ads, etc.) that are specifically designed to look like they are coming "from the people" when they in fact are not...[snip]...If someone hires a high-priced specialist, it seems reasonable to assume that they want the specialist's services, doesn't it?

        Sure, it means they want to use the specialists for something, but for what? Would it be so bad if someone organized "grass roots" campaigns that were pro-OSS, pro-net-neutrality, etc. I mean, t

        • by MarkusQ (450076) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:21PM (#16106131) Journal
          Sure, it means they want to use the specialists for something, but for what? Would it be so bad if someone organized "grass roots" campaigns that were pro-OSS, pro-net-neutrality, etc. I mean, there are real grass-roots efforts, so even if these guys blew it a little out of proportion, it wouldn't exactly be false.

          No. The ends do not justify the means. I happen to run linux on all my machines at the present (*sigh* my BSD box finally went the way netcraft always said it would), but none of my grandparents (all of whom are dead) ever did. If I found out that they were busy writing posthumous letters to our Senator, extolling the Tao of GNU, I'd be just as upset as if it was pro-Microsoft BS.

          The people can and should speak for themselves. Letting paid shills shape our public policy is a recipe for disaster, even if we happen to agree with them on the issue of the moment.

          --MarkusQ

    • by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:20AM (#16105463)
      On the other hand, there's plenty of us that think that paying a company to work for you, knowing that they have a tendency towards dirty and underhanded tactics... That's the same as supporting that company's tactics. And the same as supporting 'evil'. Most people that were worried about their image simply wouldn't deal with a company that had done these things. This is especially true when politics are concerned.
    • Just because you hire a firm known to have pulled dirty tricks for dirty companies like Exxon and Microsoft doesn't mean that they'll necessarily pull dirty stuff on behalf of all their clients.


      So even though I was a partner with Pablo Escobar in a used car lot, as long as our used car business dealings are legit I'm in a good place ethically? Sorry, homey don't play that game.
    • by mordors9 (665662) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:38AM (#16105671)
      If you do business with an evil company, you are enriching it. You are rewarding it for its prior bad deeds by choosing them for your business relationship. So in essence you are serving to increase the incentive to do evil in the world. I also don't know why any of this is surprising. As soon as Google decided, for business reasons, to climb into bed with China and begin restricting freedom of access to information for the Chinese people they showed that they were amoral at best.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      Sorry but Google posted a lovely page about banned books and supporting the freedom to read while censoring pro-human rights web sites in China.
      Looks like more of the same talking out of both sides of their mouth.
      It wrong to judge on looks. But judging by actions, well Google has lost the right to the motto of do no evil in my book.

    • I'm afraid you might have drunk a little too much, your Kool-Aid moustache is starting to show...
  • Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:09AM (#16105347) Journal
    I just love how innovative companies like Google are forced to spend all this money on lobbyists just so Congress doesn't screw them over. Why isn't it all spent on making a better product? Because some people gave the government so much power beyond its strict Constitutional limits, which given enough time would mean lobbyists would be fighting over all that juicy government money and to shackle their competitors. "It's okay though, we can give the government all this power, we just have to, you know, limit the lobbyists!" YOU CAN'T. With that much money at stake, they will steamroll over whatever petty contributions limits and ethics rules you set up.

    Companies can compete on the market, or in lobbying ability. Thanks, voters, for making the latter so ripe.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HungWeiLo (250320)
      Most companies operating in the world have to pay off government officials in one way or another in order to operate successfully. Why should it be any different here?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by UbuntuDupe (970646)
        Most companies operating in the world have to pay off government officials in one way or another in order to operate successfully. Why should it be any different here?

        Just a guess -- maybe because "is" is not the same as "ought"?
    • Re:Thanks (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FireBreathingDog (559649) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:08PM (#16105983)

      I just love how innovative companies like Google are forced to spend all this money on lobbyists just so Congress doesn't screw them over. Why isn't it all spent on making a better product? Because some people gave the government so much power beyond its strict Constitutional limits, which given enough time would mean lobbyists would be fighting over all that juicy government money and to shackle their competitors. "It's okay though, we can give the government all this power, we just have to, you know, limit the lobbyists!" YOU CAN'T. With that much money at stake, they will steamroll over whatever petty contributions limits and ethics rules you set up.

      That's because there are no true small government types in government anymore. People keep voting for politicians who "bring home the bacon" and who pile all sorts of regulations on business. But if a major function of government is to regulate business and find various ways to extract money from them, then it creates an incentive for businesses to lobby government. Getting favorable treatment from the government becomes a competitive advantage, only because we live in a society that insists on micromanaging the economy.

      Don't want businesses lobbying government? There's an easy solution: get government out of the business of micromanaging businesses.

      A great way to end corruption would be to make government as small (and transparent) as possible.

    • I just love how innovative companies like Google are forced to spend all this money on lobbyists just so Congress doesn't screw them over. Why isn't it all spent on making a better product? Because some people gave the government so much power beyond its strict Constitutional limits, which given enough time would mean lobbyists would be fighting over all that juicy government money and to shackle their competitors.

      The folks who gave Congress power to lean on Big, Gigantic Corporations like Google are the pe
  • by sheldon (2322) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:10AM (#16105356)
    Machine Politics is about graft. You vote for me, I'll give you a job. You don't vote for me, I'll make sure we pass a law to put you out of business.

    Google probably started talking to some politicians about Net Neutrality(or something else that effects their business) and the politician said "Huh? I can't hear you. Maybe you ought to drop my buddies at DCI some ka-ching to help fix my hearing problem."

    See: K-Street Project [wikipedia.org]

    Washington DC has vastly increased in size in the past six years, and it's all been lobbyists, shills and political hacks. Lot's of people profiting at the tax payers expense.

    • Washington DC has vastly increased in size in the past six years

      Why only go back 6 years? Oh, I know.

      Face it, Washington DC has vastly increased in size continually since it first became the nation's capital. Sorry, this is not something we can blame exclusively on George Bush and the Republicans.
      • by sheldon (2322)

        Why only go back 6 years?

        Because strangely enough, that's the time period in which the lobbying has really gotten out of hand.

        Face it, Washington DC has vastly increased in size continually since it first became the nation's capital. Sorry, this is not something we can blame exclusively on George Bush and the Republicans.

        Oh you are arguing that it's really logarithmic, and that while it was slowly building, it just happened to be a coincidence in that last six years that it got out of hand.

        Wow, what a way

  • can we just agree (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iocat (572367) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:12AM (#16105375) Homepage Journal
    that Google is really no longer a company that does no evil? Their business model is basically: "give us all your personal information and we'll store it on our servers. Nothing to worry about here! We're the company that does no evil ...unless the Chinese goverment asks us to."

    The "it's all for the greater good" line sure wouldn't feel nice if you were the person who ended up tortured in some Chinese prison because Google gave up the contents of your gmail, or spreadsheet.

    Anyway, I realize this post is coming off trolling, and I apologize, but I'm sick of the double standard vis-a-vis google vs. any other large company. Judging them by their actions, not their words, they are not significantly different these days than Microsoft (these days -- not necessarily MS's historical actions).

  • Guns for Hire (Score:5, Insightful)

    by patrixmyth (167599) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:13AM (#16105384)
    If Google didn't hire them, then there's every possibility that a competing interest would hire them instead. There's a lot of legislation bouncing around that affects Google directly and its users indirectly by weakening privacy laws. When the lynch mob is headed into town, you better hire gunslingers, not the local minister.
    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      If Google didn't hire them, then there's every possibility that a competing interest would hire them instead.

      That's just silly. That Google has hired them doesn't preclude a competing interest from hiring them anyway.

      What? You think astroturfing scum are above talking money from both sides?

  • When in Rome. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Irish_Samurai (224931) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:13AM (#16105388)
    You would have to be a fool to try to take "high road" tactics with the US administration and congress. That's not a anti-republican jab, that's true no matter whose asses are in those seats. The game isn't played nicely there.

    If we have to play dirty to protect net neutrality and the last semblances of online privacy - then we should get the dirtiest fuckers out there.

    Sometimes the ends justify the means.
  • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:15AM (#16105420)
    People at /. tend to mistake the prospect of being in power with being corrupted. The correlation% between the two is very high, but just because you have power or money does not mean you are evil.

    I still think Google will be using their powers (or monies in congress) for good. It's ok to look to gain more power if it benefits others. Regardless of what the depressing "LOOK OUT!" books tell us, no one in history has managed to obtain that level of power, and keep it [if they had, we wouldn't be talking about this now]. I think Google may be the first company that sees not just the next several financial quarters, but the next several hundred. They're too smart to fall for the lock-your-customers-in-and-rape-them business method that is so popular now days. If you want to be a dictator, the people have to like you. If you want to remain dictator, people have to still like you and your policies. Regardless of what evil wants, it seems that it cannot have what it desires without some good. In this case, that good will be keeping us happy. I know this flies in the face of Huxley and BNW, but if we die happy, what gives?
  • by witten (5796) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:19AM (#16105458) Homepage
    Let's look at this question from a philosophy angle. Let's say Google is bent on doing good, or at the very least, committed to avoiding evil. If they then employ or otherwise use the services of someone, like a lobbying organization, with a history of doing evil, is Google doing evil?

    There are two possibilities here. One is that the lobbying organization with a track record of evil does no evil while being payed by Google. The other is that the lobbying organization continues its standard practice of evil behavior while on the clock for Google.

    In the first case, one could perhaps argue that paying someone who used to do evil that no longer does evil is giving them a new start, a chance to make things right. However if the lobbying organization doesn't do evil on behalf of Google, but still does evil on behalf of other clients, then one could argue that Google is supporting the evil-doer financially, even if it isn't contributing to evil directly.

    Let's examine the second case. If the organization actually does commit evil directly while on the clock for Google, and Google is aware of it, then one would have a difficult time arguing that Google is not at least guilty of contributory evil.

    Of course, none of this says what good or evil actually are. I'll leave that as an excercise for the reader.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:22AM (#16105484)
    It's 2006. If you still buy Google's "don't be evil" B.S., I have a rich friend in Nambia who wants to meet you.
  • Non-evil? Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:25AM (#16105513)
    Or could there possibly be a non-evil reason to hire these clowns?"


    Given the lobbying firepower being deployed by the anti-net-neutrality side, if Google, usually portrayed as pro-neutrality, is serious about a pro-neutrality stance as something more than a quixotic PR stand, it needs the capacity to go toe-to-toe with the cable and telephone industries.

    And that means you need people that are familiar with the broadest possible spectrum of lobbying tactics, capable of advising on how to counter them, and capable of deploying whatever tactics Google is willing to go with in response.

    Anything less is bringing a knife to a gun fight.
  • by Gorimek (61128) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:25AM (#16105517) Homepage
    The submission seems to say "Google may do something evil in the future, let's start the backlash now so it's over with".

    Wake me up when there's something real.
    • The submission seems to say "Google may do something evil in the future, let's start the backlash now so it's over with".
      Wake me up when there's something real.

      You can wake up now. Google actually did something; they hired an astroturfing company.

      They may not have known that's what it was; I'm still holding out hope that some new hire did this as his or her "career limiting move" and tomorrow we will here about them firing DCI without ever using their services. But they actually did it.

      The point i

  • I really fail to understand this irrational love affair some Slashdotters have with Google The Corporation.

    Let me refresh your memory on some basic principles of large corporations:

    1. The only purpose of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders (and/or CEOs in case of badly broken business communities such as the USA)
    2. Large corporations are artificial "persons", whose "personality" is 100% amoral, their "life's" purpose being point #1 but any "humanizing" influence which some of their staff m
  • They ( in this case China is a different matter) haven't done evil yet. They paid money to a company. That company has done bad things, but hasn't done any for google yet. Maybe google is paying them to do good. If people paid thime to do good, they wouldn't have time to do bad. Sort of like methadone.
  • by tktk (540564) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:27AM (#16105538)
    Google's real motto is "Don't? Be Evil!!!"

    (Shamelessly stolen from the Simpsons)

  • by unPlugged-2.0 (947200) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:31AM (#16105564) Homepage
    I am glad to actually get a comment before the masses of Slashdot jump on their new favorite villain Google.

    But let's be honest. The "Don't be Evil" motto was made when Google was a startup of 50 or less people. Everything is based off an ideal in a startup because you want to change the world. In order to do that you need passionate and idealistic people. It was the same in the two startups I have worked for as well and it will be the same in my current startup. Nobody changes the world without some ideals. Nobody wants to work like crazy without a sense that you are going to be doing something profound, something worthy. Everybody wants to be a knight in shining armor. Maybe that is a bad side effect from the amount of RPG's good software developers play.

    The unfortunate part of it is when you become a big corporation you are pulled in a lot of directions and sometimes the ideals you were founded on take a back-seat. This becomes especially true when you are publicly traded and have wall street to deal with. The fact is Google is now headed by more than just the two founders as a matter of fact I think they are probably just content to sit back and do what they do best develop new technologies. The actual Google is run by a bunch of savvy businessman who are there to leverage every single aspect of the company and a large part of that is lobbying.

    Software patents - check
    Using their user's information for competitive advantage - check
    Being secretive about changes to their product - check
    Being one of the most secretive but somehow comes across open and sharing company - check

    I think it's time to take the "Don't be Evil" slogan for what it is, just clever marketing. There is simply nothing most of us can do. I am tied into Google probaby more than others and I don't care because if it wasn't them it would be somebody else who is analyzing my data, hosting my emails, storing my chat's, selling me viagra (oh wait not that last part).
  • ..as long as you get them to do good stuff. Worked out great for the CIA and Osama afterall.

  • by mspohr (589790) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:33AM (#16105603)
    There is a basic conflict between the legal and financial mandate for a corporation (make a profit for the shareholders) and all type of "evil" behavior that facilitates the profit.

    It is very admirable that Google is attempting to bridge this divide but the effort is ultimately futile. Google has shown that when it gets down to the bottom line, it must choose profit (i.e. China).

    Hiring this lobby firm is just what is necessary for business as usual in the good old USA capitalist system. You buy youself whatever laws you need to maximize your profit. I love Google just as much as the next person but to expect a corporation to not be evil is unrealistic.

    The Economist (a pro-capitalist magazine) has some more information on this: http://www.economist.com/business/displayStory.cfm ?story_id=2647328 [economist.com]

  • If taken at face value then "Do no evil" is an absolute that can not be achived, as there is no definition for evil itself.

    For example is is Google evil for providing valuable services to computers when we know that the production process for computers is harmful to the evironment?

     
    • by EEBaum (520514)
      Harming the environment isn't evil. SUV drivers are at the forefront of the fight against evildoers.
  • "Don't Be Evil" was one of Google's many beta products. They worked out the kinks for the final release, entitled "Don't Always Be Evil, But Sometimes is OK", which was unveiled shortly after the IPO.
  • "Don't be evil" went out the window the second they became billionaires.
  • "Or could there possibly be a non-evil reason to hire these clowns?""

    Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.

  • I realize I may be giving Google a giant benefit of the doubt, but here goes.

    What if Google hired DCI and contractually bound them from taking on conflicting work but gave them nothing substantial to do? That would prevent the other side from hiring them, effectively taking them out of the equation.

    I've heard of rich defendants hiring the 'big gun' prosecutor's firm for something piddly, thereby preventing the 'big gun' from being able to proscecute them due to conflict of interest.

  • See for example First Things First [xs4all.nl], a graphic design manifesto first published in 1964 and re-issued 25 years later in 1989/2000 with 33 signatories. Here is a quote:

    We do not advocate the abolition of high pressure consumer advertising: this is not feasible. Nor do we want to take any of the fun out of life. But we are proposing a reversal of priorities in favour of the more useful and more lasting forms of communication. We hope that our society will tire of gimmick merchants, status salesmen and hidden

  • by Churla (936633) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:03PM (#16105924)
    Which was echoed by Sean Connery in the Untouchables.

    One must strive when fighting monsters to ensure that he not become the monster himself.

    I think that applies to if Google is going to hire astroturfing firms to try to influence congress. Appropriately enough I think a good reference to the old "ends justifying the means" argument can be made here as well.
  • And it should have been done LONG ago.

    Lobbying, advertising and such are a WEAPON of political arena.

    What do you do, when an agressor with evil intent attacks you, your family, your town, or your country ?

    You DEFEND it.

    With what ?

    With WEAPONS goddammit.

    Wheres the evil in that ?
  • With big competitors like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Ask, and little competitors all up and down the web, and telecomm companies threatening to charge them more because they have huge piles of cash, Google needs to fight as dirty as those who would do them in.

    You don't bring a knife to a gun fight, and you don't hire "Up With People" to combat vampires.

  • don't we as a society have better things to do than ferret out instances of hypocracy in every nook and cranny of public life? Is hypocracy really so awful? If a company strives to do good but sometimes fails at it, is that not better than to not strive at all?

    Google has done a lot of good: free awesome search engine, all the tools, the advocacy of actual standards, etc. So their political efforts are dirty - hey, you know, welcome to politics.
  • Look, "don't be evil" or not, this is politics they're talking about. The game itself is evil and behaving ethically will only get you ripped apart. That's the game. Don't wanna be evil? Don't play politics and let an evil organization with bigger balls than you ruin your life. Binary choice.

    Real saints don't exist. Life is shit, get over it.
  • Two Words... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:19PM (#16106103)
    Net Neutrality.
  • by mogrify (828588) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:44PM (#16106445) Homepage
    Having seen some of those commercials sponsored by the telecoms denouncing Net Neutrality, I'd say they're planning a counterattack. Who better to help Google respond to intelligence-insulting, logic-reversing mumbo-jumbo astroturf scare tactics than the people who perpetrate such filth?

    I still can't believe how they're trying to spin an evil attempt by massive corporations to charge consumers more money for the same level of service... as an attempt to save consumers from an evil attempt by massive corporations to charge consumers more money for the same level of service. It makes me want to take a shower just thinking about it.

    The question is, if they use their power for good, is it still evil? I think we'll just have to see what they do....
  • by swordgeek (112599) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @09:58PM (#16110628) Journal
    Google turned into an evil company roughly three years ago. Now they're just evil and hypocritical, like most big companies. They still have a fairly good search engine, but the veneer has long since worn off.

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